SC reserves order on pleas challenging constitutional validity of adultery law

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NEW DELHI, Aug 8 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the penal law on adultery.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said it would pass orders, after Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, concluded her arguments on Wednesday.

The hearing in the case by the bench, which also comprised Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, went on for six days and had commenced on August 1.

Earlier in the day, the apex court had asked the Centre “what public good” the penal law on adultery served as it provided that no offence would be made if the husband of a woman approves an adulterous relationship.

The ASG had commenced her arguments by saying that adultery has been made an offence by keeping in mind the sanctity of marriage as an institution.

Anand also said that the judgement of foreign jurisdictions setting aside adultery as a criminal offence, should not be taken into account and the instant matter be decided on the basis of the social conditions prevalent in India.

Referring to the inconsistencies in the penal provision, the bench posed that the burden of maintaining the sanctity of marriage rested only with the woman and not the husband.

Section 497 of the 158-year-old IPC says: “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery.”

On January 5, the apex court had referred to a five-judge constitution bench the plea challenging the validity of the penal law on adultery.

The court had taken a prima facie view that though the criminal law proceeded on “gender neutrality”, the concept was absent in Section 497.

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